Originally posted on NewsMatch's Medium page by Kip Dooley
June 3, 2020 — This month, NewsMatch kicks off its fifth funding cycle with the goal of helping scores of nonprofit newsrooms continue to inform their communities and provide in-depth coverage of critical social issues. Results from the 2019 NewsMatch cycle, published for the first time today, show that it was the most successful to date, with an initial pool of $3.37 million in philanthropic funds leveraged into a $43.5 million payout — a nearly 1,200% return on philanthropic investments that infused much-needed cash into independent newsrooms just as the coronavirus disrupted business as usual.
Credible, local news is more critical than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic and will continue to be a vital resource for voters during the 2020 election season. Institute for Nonprofit News (INN) members have found new and innovative ways to serve their communities during the current crisis: Outlier Media (Detroit, Mich.) has been providing vital health information via text message to residents without internet access; Chalkbeat (Colo.) created food maps for families that rely on school lunches; and countless others like CalMatters (Calif.) and East Lansing Info (East Lansing, Mich.) are providing real-time reporting on the local effects of COVID-19.
Results from NewsMatch 2019 show that communities are stepping up to support this kind of quality journalism: Last year, the dollar amount of local matching gifts during NewsMatch more than doubled to $1.4 million, while the number of individual donors increased by 26 percent.
“Without NewsMatch’s national prominence, the reputation of its donors, and the resources it provides through its excellent staff, we would have a much harder time bringing our community meaningful, nonpartisan, high-quality local news,” says Alice Dreger, president and publisher of East Lansing Info.
A full breakdown of NewsMatch funding sources and payouts from 2016 to 2019 can be found here.
In 2020, NewsMatch will run during the last two months of the year, but in response to the COVID-19 crisis NewsMatch collaborated with #GivingTuesdayNow, Institute for Nonprofit News, News Revenue Hub and The American Journalism Project to launch a COVID-relief campaign for nonprofit news in May — raising $1.14 million for 106 participating newsrooms in just three days and bringing thousands of new donors to nonprofit news.
Started in 2016 by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, NewsMatch combines a matching gift program with hundreds of hours of coaching and professional development for publishing members of the Institute for Nonprofit News. INN newsrooms must be nonprofit, nonpartisan, and dedicated to public service; they are also expected to follow guidelines for standards in ethics, financial transparency and editorial independence. (Nonprofit and fiscally sponsored news organizations are invited to learn about becoming a member of INN).
The NewsMatch program allows foundations to contribute to the matching fund hosted at The Miami Foundation at a level that works for their size and interests. REI Co-Op, for example, created a partner fund in 2019 for local environmental reporting. Spitzer Charitable Trust contributed to the matching pool out of their concern for the health of American democracy. NewsMatch training programs and resources help newsrooms find new donors of their own during a two-month fundraising campaign in November and December, while the NewsMatch.org website makes it easy for the public to learn about and support quality journalism. The dual result is that an initial philanthropic investment becomes a lever to unlock more local funding for news, while newsrooms build stronger relationships with their readers and greater long-term financial stability.
Here’s a snapshot of how the process worked for one newsroom in 2019:
Mississippi Today was founded in 2014 with the goal of providing Mississippians with reporting that inspires active interest in their state and equips them to engage in community life. In 2019, the organization was eligible for a $20,000 matching grant from the NewsMatch fund. As part of the two-month fundraising campaign, the staff set up seven matching gifts from local funders totaling nearly $49,000 (compared with zero the previous year), attracted partner grants from the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation and Hewlett Foundation (managed and distributed through the Miami Foundation) and increased the number of donations from readers by 36 percent over the previous NewsMatch cycle. At the same time, Mississippi Today attracted a major gift of $500,000. Ultimately, NewsMatch helped the organization generate $656,525 in 2019 — more than one-third of their annual operating budget of $1.5 million — in just two months.
NewsMatch is transforming how quality news is funded and sustained, using philanthropic dollars to empower journalists who are serving their communities in new and important ways. To learn more about NewsMatch and how your foundation, family, or company can contribute, email Josh Stearns at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NewsMatch is supported by John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Democracy Fund, Facebook Journalism Project, Inasmuch Foundation, Jonathan Logan Family Foundation, Natasha and Dirk Ziff, Present Progressive Fund at Schwab Charitable, and REI Co-op, in partnership with The Miami Foundation, News Revenue Hub, and the Institute for Nonprofit News — which supports a network of more than 250 nonprofit, nonpartisan news organizations.